Cuba was forced to take one of its largest power plants offline Monday due to a massive fire

PHOTO: Bloomberg

Cuba was forced to take one of its largest power plants off line Monday due to the massive fire at the Matanzas fuel depot, deepening an already severe energy crisis on the Caribbean island.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines said it had disconnected the 200 MW Antonio Guiteras thermoelectric plant from the grid due to a lack of water. Cuba’s Communist Party — a government mouthpiece — said the fire at the nearby Matanzas industrial complex had interfered with water delivery to the plant.

With the new power failure, the country can cover just over half the island’s 3,000 MW peak energy demand on Monday, The Union of Electrical Workers said. In all, some 1,223 MW of generation is off line, the union wrote on its social media accounts.

The fresh blow comes as a fire at the sprawling fuel depot in northern Cuba spread to a third tank Monday morning, despite efforts to contain the three-day old blaze.

“The third tank has also collapsed, after the second tank spilled fuel and further complicated the situation,” the Presidency wrote on Twitter.

Two storage tanks — one containing 26,000 cubic meters of petroleum and another containing some 50,000 cubic meters of fuel oil — caught fire Friday night after lightning hit the complex.

Venezuelan, Mexican and Cuban firefighters have been trying to contain the blaze as officials say they have managed to siphon off at least 520 cubic meters of fuel oil. It was not immediately clear how much, or what type, of fuel the third tank contained.

The multiple explosions have left at least 125 injured, one dead and more than a dozen missing, according to state-run media. On Monday, the government advised residents of the area to stay indoors and wear masks as plumes of black smoke darkened the sky.

The Matanzas complex — on Cuba’s northern coast about 56 miles east of Havana — receives fuel oil imports, largely from Venezuela and Europe, that are distributed to power plants.

Sherritt International Corp., one of the biggest foreign investors in Cuba, said its power assets near Matanzas haven’t been affected by the blaze. The Canadian miner, which is planning to expand its main nickel and cobalt operation on the eastern end of the island, is providing support where it can, a spokesman said.

Read More: Cuba Fuel Depot Fire Enters Third Day as the Injury Toll Mounts

Even before the fire, Cuba was struggling to keep the lights on amid breakdowns and fuel shortages. Rolling blackouts have sparked rare protests.

The fire comes as Cuba’s annual inflation hit 29% in June, largely driven by the weakening peso and rising costs for fuel and imports. Cuba’s economy grew 1.3% in 2021 after two years of record declines.

The Yucatan Times
Newsroom



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